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Off to the Beach Hop on the Indian Chief Vintage
By Mathieu Day • 18/04/2015
CHIEF VINTAGE IS A SHOWSTOPPER AT THE BEACH
One annual event stands out at Whangamata — the Beach Hop, a five-day festival that expands the Coromandel town’s population from 7000 to 110,000. With a hot rod and rock ’n’ roll theme for the event, I had to be mindful about the motorbike to take to the event — it had to fit in with the event and be able to cope with the return trip, in heavy traffic, from Auckland to Whangamata.
Cyclespot USA in Takapuna, Auckland, found the ideal bike for me to borrow for the Hop — a 2014 model Indian Chief Vintage. With its classic lines, tassels galore and chrome accents, the Chief Vintage would blend in.
But the Indian brand doesn’t “do” blending in. Despite poor weather for the majority of the Beach Hop, the Chief Vintage drew crowds of admirers wherever it went.
Like the dressed up Chieftain (see driven.co.nz for our test), the Chief Vintage isn’t the bike you want if you’re an introvert.
The most talked-about feature for Hop-goers was the beautiful Thunderstroke 111 engine used in Indian’s big bike range. The huge 1811cc unit is the centre of the bike in more than just placement — the eye is instantly drawn to the beautiful craftsmanship of the engine.
Differing from the Chieftain and Roadmaster models, the Chief Vintage and the Chief Classic have a front fork rake angle of 29 degrees, 4 degrees more rake than the heavier solid fairing bikes with their electronically adjustable screens.
It might seem that this would make the Chief Vintage a different bike to ride, but the whole range has an almost identical riding feel, despite the differences in rake and weight.
Factory-equipped with traditionally tanned leather seats and saddlebags, the Vintage had the looks to match its name.
For the 2015 models, Indian has changed the tanning process for the leather to improve UV and weather resistance, but there is just something authentic about the slightly weathered look of the leather on the test bike.
When the Indian was being set up next to Whangamata beach in what seemed like a secluded place, a throng of onlookers loved the distressed look of the leather compared with the new-look in the brochure.
The other addition defining the Chief Vintage is the removable windscreen, which is large enough to protect the rider from wind buffeting and also keeps the rain at bay, although only once you’re travelling at more than 50km/h.
Removing the screen is easy — two latches secure it on either side of the headlight.
The only problem I had was finding a good place to store the screen while I was away. But the versatility you can achieve by removing the screen and saddlebags is worth the effort.
The windscreen is easy to remove if you don't need the weather protection.
On the road the Chief Vintage has excellent manners, and its hefty weight — it weighs in at more than 364kg — vanishes as soon as you set off. As on all large cruisers, low-speed manoeuvering is a physically challenging task if you become stuck in traffic or are in the centre of town. The Chief also shares its braking with the rest of the Thunderstroke-powered range with four-piston dual Front brakes clasping 300mm rotors at the front and a single two-piston on the rear.
With ABS as standard, stopping power is more than enough to pull up the weight of the bike and two riders. The ride to Whangamata — taking the long way — was made in beautiful sunshine, but the weather then took a turn for the worse and I was soon riding in the rain.
The low centre of gravity coupled with the Dunlop American Elite white-wall tyres kept the bike on the straight and narrow.
It’s just the thing for the Beach Hop, but the Chief Vintage doesn’t “do” blending in.
After a weekend filled with more than my fair share of classic eye candy the Indian and I returned home along the straights of the Hauraki Plains.
With cruise control as standard, comfortably cruising along State Highway 25 was effortless.
With less switchgear in comparison to the Chieftain, the technology is much easier to access without taking your hand off the bars.